Chicago Cubs: What will Pedro Strop’s role be in 2018?

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Pedro Strop /

Last year, Pedro Strop was one of the few members of Cubs manager Joe Maddon’s “circle of trust.” But in a newly revamped 2018 bullpen, what will Strop’s role be?

After a disappointing 2017 postseason wrought with walks, the Chicago Cubs bullpen received a much-needed makeover.

Still, many of the same characters return to the bullpen in 2018 looking for redemption. Among some of the returners are Carl Edwards Jr., Justin Wilson and Brian Duensing, who resigned with the Cubs in free agency last week, and Pedro Strop.

Strop was one of the more reliable relievers for the Cubs in 2017. He posted a 2.83 ERA and a 1.177 WHIP in 60 1/3 innings. Joe Maddon often relied on him in a setup role as a bridge to then-closer Wade Davis.

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However, with the addition of Steve Cishek and Brandon Morrow, two experienced relievers, Strop’s role could be set to change.

Morrow had an excellent 2017 for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He turned in a 2.06 ERA and a 0.916 WHIP. Morrow is expected to replace Davis, who signed with the Colorado Rockies, as the Cubs’ closer. However, few would expect Strop to fill the role of closer in 2018.

Cishek, on the other hand, could be primed to take over Strop’s spot as one of the top setup men. Cishek has had an impressive few years with several different teams, including a 2.01 ERA and a 0.896 WHIP in 44 2/3 innings for the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays last season.

Thus, as a strong right-handed option for the Cubs in the later innings, Cishek may get the nod over Strop from time to time.

Cubs have plenty of returning options 

In addition to new signees Cishek and Morrow, several 2017 Cubs besides Strop, including Edwards, Duensing and Wilson, are expected to have an impact in the bullpen in 2018, as well.

Wilson struggled with the Cubs after being dealt by the Detroit Tigers at the trade deadline. Despite having a 2.68 ERA and a 0.942 WHIP with Detroit, Wilson’s numbers skyrocketed when he reached Chicago, where he posted a 5.09 ERA and a 2.094 WHIP. The biggest issue? Walks. The lefty walked greater than a batter per inning after the trade.

This stark contrast in numbers can only mean that Wilson is due for an improved 2018. Because of Wilson’s 2017 struggles, Strop will likely be ranked above Wilson in order of trust in the bullpen, at least to start the season. However, if Wilson finds his groove early on, that could change quickly.

Duensing had an impressive 2017 with the Cubs, posting a 2.74 ERA. While he will probably be trusted with more than just one left-handed batter at a time, Duensing is likely to be used in situations that involve facing multiple lefties. Thus, in general, Strop will probably get the nod ahead of Duensing in a general setup role.

Strop, Edwards ready to take the next step?

Throughout 2017, Edwards and Strop were often seen on a similar plane in the bullpen. They were the two primary setup men for much of the year in high-leverage situations.

However, Strop tended to be more reliable that Edwards, likely due to a higher level of maturity: while Strop is 32 years old, Edwards is just 26 years old and made his MLB debut in 2015.

In high-pressure situations, Edwards was prone to walking batters and working himself into trouble. He still was able to post an ERA of 2.98 and a WHIP of 1.010, though.

Because of Edwards’ lack of maturity, Strop will probably be trusted over him as one of the team’s setup men.

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With Morrow being the closer and Cishek the primary eighth-inning setup man, Strop is primed to take up one of the secondary setup spots. That could mean that he will either pitch in the sixth or seventh inning or take over when Cishek is unavailable for the eighth inning.